AAA  Aug. 28, 2014 10:28 AM ET
Judge defends life term in youth murder case
The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times
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(AP) — An eastern Pennsylvania judge is defending his decision to impose a life term again on a defendant convicted of killing another teenager when he was 14 years old.

Qu'eed Batts, 23, was sentenced in Northampton County to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the 2006 slaying of 16-year-old Clarence Edwards and the wounding of another teenager in Easton. He said he acted on the orders of a gang leader.

Batts was re-sentenced in May after the U.S Supreme Court banned mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles. Defense attorney Phil Lauer appealed to Superior Court, calling the sentence illegal and unconstitutional and saying his client should face no more than 20 to 40 years in prison.

In a 127-page response filed Wednesday, Judge Michael Koury said he heeded the Supreme Court's instructions and gave careful consideration to the defendant's age at the time of the crime, but he said he determined that Batts had committed a "calculated, callous and cold-blooded murder" rather than the impulsive act of a teenager, The (Easton) Express-Times (http://bit.ly/1tGcqvY ) reported.

"A sentence of life without parole was not disproportionate to Batts' crimes," Koury wrote, saying he acted within the bounds of law and the appeal should be dismissed as lacking merit.

Lauer also challenged a visit Koury made to the crime scene, saying that made the judge more likely to consider the elements of the murder rather than the defendant's chaotic childhood and potential for rehabilitation. Koury said court documents show he had already made up his mind and gathered no new evidence.

"The court's meditations at the crime scene were no different than its meditations in chambers," Koury wrote.

Lauer also said the judge gave the defense little time to review undisclosed evidence that Batts had maintained gang ties in prison, but Koury disagreed and said he put little stock in the evidence when making his decision anyway.

"Batts may disagree with the manner in which the court weighed the statutory factors and the ultimate sentencing decision the court reached. However, the court's decision was not an abuse of discretion," he wrote.

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Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times, http://www.lehighvalleylive.com

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